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The Washington Post does a poor job on its most recent portrait of Jack Murtha, painting him as a "hawk" who only recently converted to a withdraw position on Iraq. From the headline ("The About-Face of Hawkish Democrat Murtha") through the first several paragraphs of the Shailagh Murray article featured on Page 2, it purports to show Murtha as a Democrat who supported Bush's position on Iraq until two weeks ago, when in truth Murtha has a long track record of pressing for precipitous withdrawals on military engagements going back to Somalia, and even Murray reports late in her article that Murtha's latest position doesn't represent any "about-face" at all.
Here's what Post readers will see if they only take in the first three paragraphs:
Of all the Democrats calling for an end to the Iraq war, Rep. John P. Murtha is an anomaly. Unlike Sens. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Russ Feingold (Wis.), he doesn't want to be president. He's no liberal, like his House colleagues Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) and Maxine Waters (Calif.). He's certainly the only one to call Vice President Cheney a friend.
A man of gruff familiarity -- most colleagues find it more natural to call him "Murtha" than "Jack" -- has been representing his Pennsylvania district for 16 terms, rising to become the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations panel's defense subcommittee. For that perch, he became known for his opposition to defense cuts and his willingness to send troops into battle -- and even to draft them, if necessary. He was the first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress, and has fashioned a reputation as the Democrats' soldier-legislator -- a John McCain type without swagger or upward ambition. He generally prefers the shadows of Capitol Hill to the spotlight -- though that changed dramatically in recent days.
Last week, as Congress was preparing to leave town for a two-week Thanksgiving break, Murtha told a gathering of his colleagues and, later, reporters that -- although he had voted in favor of the resolution authorizing the Iraq invasion -- he now wanted American troops withdrawn immediately. "The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily," Murtha said. "It is time to bring them home."
But that isn't an "about-face" at all. Eighteen months earlier, in May 2004, Murtha had already started demanding that the US pull out of Iraq, although he did it outside of the halls of Congress. As Murray herself reports -- in the sixteenth paragraph -- he told CNN in an interview that further mobilization was impossible, and that made Iraq unwinnable. He started talking up a pullout eight months before the Iraqis held their first election, seventeen months before their constitutional plebescite, and nineteen months before their upcoming elections to elect their first permanent, constitutional republican government.
Even worse, Murray fails to do any research at all on her subject, accepting the Democratic-hawk line without question. Had Murray looked into Murtha's record, she would have found that the Pennsylvania Democrat has a record of only supporting military operations until the first casualties get reported. In fact, the only time prior to 9/11 that America's military faced off against terrorists and warlords in battle, Murtha demanded that Bill Clinton withdraw them immediately from Somalia -- and got what he wanted.
Murtha's stance has remained consistent: he supports the military as a defense unit, but not in any forward engagement that results in casualties. Murray's representation otherwise distorts Murtha's true record and misinforms Post readers.Sphere It View blog reactions
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